NIMHANS pitches in to shun stigma and psychosocial trauma
The Hindu, April 8 2020
Union Health Ministry has entrusted the institute with the task of preparing information, education, and communication material on COVID-19
In the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak, the Union Health Ministry has entrusted NIMHANS, the country’s premier mental health institution, with the task of preparing information, education and communication (IEC) material on psychosocial aspects related to the disease.
NIMHANS has prepared short posters, pamphlets, eight-word SMS messages, and one-minute videos providing tips on how to overcome various aspects such as stigma faced by people under quarantine, stress that students and parents are undergoing due to indefinite postponement of exams, and psychological trauma in different life stages – children, elderly, and pregnant women – during the pandemic.
An eight-member team headed by S.K. Chaturvedi, senior professor of psychiatry at NIMHANS, has been set up to coordinate with various behavioural science faculties for preparing the IEC material.
“We have already prepared the IEC material on various aspects and sent it to the Union Ministry. We are now working on the psychological impact of the lockdown on migrant population and what needs to be done to help them overcome it. While stigma faced by those under quarantine, stress and psychological impact on people in various stages of life are common issues, the issues faced by the migrant population during this pandemic is an emerging problem,”
Dr. Chaturvedi told The Hindu on Tuesday.
“Although the current pandemic is unprecedented, there have been similar events in the past that created havoc and were surpassed by the society. Information should be sought from authentic sources (websites of the World Health Organisation or Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India) keeping an eye for success stories. This can help in clarifying and dismissing rumours and fake messages,” he said.
K.S. Meena, Head of the Department of Mental Health Education at NIMHANS, said it was important to avoid labelling people under COVID-19 treatment.
“They need to be addressed as a person with COVID-19 or a person recovering from COVID-19 rather than as a case/victim/suspect of COVID-19. This is stigmatising and can even lead to fear among people, preventing them from getting screened and receiving treatment,” said Dr. Meena, who is the member secretary of the NIMHANS team on IEC material.
“Labelling particular communities and areas based on hearsay or misinformation circulated through various social media platforms should be avoided. It is unfortunate that people resort to stigmatising even medical professionals who are involved in the treatment of COVID-19. It is of utmost importance that the community is empowered with the right knowledge and attitude to deal with the current outbreak,” she said.
Another member of the team, Anish V. Cherian, assistant professor in the Department of Psychiatric Social Work at NIMHANS, said stigma also involves disclosing and spreading the names or identity of the people with COVID-19 and those in quarantine.
“This needs to be avoided as it can lead to undue anxiety among the individuals concerned. It is important to follow the WHO guidelines, including physical distancing, but to keep in mind that physical distancing does not mean emotional distancing. It is necessary to stay connected (through calls and virtual media) with the individuals who are in quarantine,” he added.